Utah ski resorts emphasizing insurance in 2020-21 season pass plans

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Skiers at Snowbird on Friday, March 13, 2020.

Snowbird and Snowbasin Resort on Wednesday unveiled their compensation plans for season passholders whose spring skiing and snowboarding was cut short by COVID-19.

Taking their cues from the policies set forth last month by Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company for their multi-resort passholders, Snowbird and Snowbasin’s plans are anchored by renewal discounts, payment programs and pass insurance.

Snowbird also finally shut the door on the 2019-20 season. Resort management had been holding out hope it could offer skiers a few more turns this spring. But it became increasingly clear that wasn’t an option, Dave Fields, president and general manager of the Little Cottonwood Canyon resort, said in a news release.

“We exhausted every possible method of re-opening for skiing and riding. However, based on other resorts remaining closed and the population center right here in the Wasatch Front alone, there is no way we could mitigate the potential of being overrun and creating an unsafe situation,” Fields said. “We don’t feel like we would be living up to our longstanding commitment of protecting the wellbeing of our employees, guests and community.”

Snowbasin closed for the season March 15, the same weekend resorts around the country were announcing what at the time were expected to be temporary closures to stem the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. A few resorts, including Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge in Colorado, are still hoping to salvage the remains of the season.

For those ready to move on, however, resorts are offering incentives for passholders to take a chance on them again in 2020-21.

Snowbird will offer discounts of between $50-$300 on its Summit pass and $50-$600 on its Alta-Bird pass toward purchase of the same pass in 2020-21. Teen/youth passholders will receive the smallest credits while family four-pack holders with five or fewer days on the mountain will get the most money back. Credits are good at any time during the season, though prices will go up after July 31.

In response to the brittle economy, Snowbird is also offering a no-interest monthly payment plan. Plus, those who get cold feet can receive a refund on the pass until Dec. 1, as long as it has not been used.

Snowbasin, meanwhile, is offering a blanket 20% discount to anyone who wants to renew, regardless of how often the 2019-20 pass was used. The discount is good through Nov. 25, though pass prices will start to increase on July 1. Anyone choosing not to renew or doing so after the deadline will instead receive one single-day lift ticket or can donate the amount of the discount to benefit three charities selected by Snowbasin.

Snowbasin will continue to provide its no-interest payment plan and will also offer free pass insurance of sorts. It will refund between 20-80% of the cost of a pass, dependent upon the number of days skied and the date of the request, for a variety of reasons. Those reasons range from stay-at-home orders to injury to a non-weather-related closure of the resort. Passholders will receive full refunds if the resort cannot open at all in 2020-21.

Vail and Alterra revealed similar incentives for their Epic Pass and Ikon Pass, respectively, in April. As of Thursday, more than half of Utah’s 15 resorts had announced their 2020-21 season-pass pricing and enticements as well.

With the threat of a second surge of COVID-19 spooking many skiers, an emphasis has been placed on pass insurance programs. Deer Valley and Solitude, which are both featured on the Ikon Pass, followed its route with the local passes as well. They will allow passholders to defer their pass to the 2021-22 season if they opt to do so before Dec. 10. Beaver Mountain, Brian Head Resort and Eagle Point are also among Utah resorts offering variations of free or inexpensive pass insurance.

Others are holding off on asking for commitments from their passholders. Alta Ski Area General Manager Mike Maughan chose that approach in an April 29 letter to its skiers.

“The Coronavirus pandemic has significantly altered our individual lives and there is much uncertainty regarding its future impact on our day-to-day lifestyles, the economy and next winter’s ski season,” Maughan wrote.

“Given these uncertainties,” he added, “now is not the right time to ask Alta skiers to purchase season passes for the 2020-21 season.”

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